High and dry. That’s the Sierra Nevada this winter. The snow tap turned off around January 15th and it’s been unsettlingly warm and dry through the beginning of March. Much of the early season snowfall has vanished. All of this allowed for reconsideration of calendar constraints as early-season travel opportunities take the place of local alpine sorties.
Bear caught surf fever on the first 50-degree day in February. As luck would have it, Lodestone Events and Four Wheeler magazine teamed up to host the inaugural Four-Wheeler Adventure Expo in Southern California.
Seemingly serendipitous events fell together as a perfect non-winter respite. With luck, we landed some space just up the street from Old Man’s in San Onofre, striking distance from the expo and well-established line ups. Maintaining a keen eye on keeping the load light, Gandalf (our well trusted and seasoned Tundra) served as our fast strike vehicle. Without pre-conceived expectations or excessive preparation, pre-dawn departure proved smooth and southerly progression swift.
Orange County Fairgrounds
I have not spent a significant amount of time in southern California despite having visited several times. As a kid from New England, SoCal still holds a strange and foreign sense for me. When I think of fairgrounds, I envision open, grassy meadows surrounded by swaying oak and maple trees. In the center stands a weathered, wooden pavilion with a rusty corrugated steel roof where once a year local pigs, squash, and gourds are judged and ranked by superiority. During winter the nearby river floods and freezes providing a vast ice pasture for skating.
Conversely, the Orange County Fairgrounds are an exceptionally developed year-round facility consisting of a wide arrangement of well-maintained exposition buildings, permanent interpretive exhibits, and concessions. Traffic and parking are organized. People flow through the facility is efficient. Easy to arrive, easy to wander, easy to eat, easy to exit. Basic needs met. One of our observations was how clean the center was kept (COVID-19 concerns notwithstanding). Very welcoming.
The event featured the expected elements as well as some that were new and fresh to us. As advertised, dozens of vendors exhibited off-road and outdoor gear, upgrade components, to fully built trailers and vehicles. There were rows of fully kitted-out showcase vehicles. Educational forums of experts shared their real-world knowledge from experience was a highlight for Bear and I (more on that topic in a bit).
Some new aspects included what was themed ‘Show and Shine’ where attendees could register their own vehicles as showpieces in the expo and camp onsite for the event. 4×4 celebrity meet-and-greets created a venue where you could have 1:1 conversation with the presenters. Finally, live music from the beer garden. EUREKA! We talked about the desire for live music back in 2018 at Expo West. We hope that carries forward to Flagstaff in a few months when there will be a larger ‘resident’ attendance for the event. That could be a lot of fun.
Exhibitions and Forums
Exhibiting vendors were exceptionally prepped, as always, with well-planned demonstrations. Roxor/Mahindra sticks out in my mind as the most memorable. Closely following was Turtleback trailers who shared some exciting new features available in the 2020 models. Excitingly creative Gladiator builds popped up at every corner. We took advantage of linking up with the team from CORVA (California Off-Road Vehicle Association). They represent the offroading community and protect access at the local and state level. It is a privilege to support that organization and the great work that they do.
The Jeep forward control concept vehicle was onsite. I had been looking forward to getting a good look at it since pics from SEMA popped up online. More interesting was a G-Wagen 4×4 Squared (factory installed portal axels) in the parking lot. I’d never seen one before. This one sported 40” tires, carbon fiber flares, and not one desert pinstripe. It’s still awesome.
Educational Forums were set up in small groups, with no more than 20 chairs in each session. Great for interacting with the panelists. The discussions tended to be more than mere canned & mastered recounts of travels, not to say those aren’t exciting! The panelists shared some valuable insights from there travels that can be directly applied. Each session had key takeaways. Several of which we intend to incorporate into our wanderlust operations.
The paradox of hosting a 4×4 Adventure Expo deep in the most urban of environments didn’t propagate any real sense of displacement. The expo was well-timed to generate excitement for the spring and summer when most overland enthusiasts take to the road. The events were easy and enjoyable to attend. I would suspect the limited scope and duration of the expo allowed Lodestone Events to test drive a few new feature ideas as well. We are certainly looking forward to attending Expo West in Flagstaff again this May.
With the business of Expo behind us, attention turned to more serious matters. Suiting up and paddling into the great equalizer for cognitive reset and some small swell sliding. Bear, despite the namesake, is part fish…perhaps porpoise. Once he hits the water it will be last light before pulling him out. I hadn’t surfed in an embarrassingly long period, but the enjoyment never leaves.
These turned out no to be the kind of sessions that would leave a lasting memory, just great to get out and catch a few rides before turning Galdalf back towards home.
Looking forward to seeing you all in a few months. Enjoy the long warm spring explorations!
Since the publishing of this post, Tahoe has received 60″ of snow and COVID-19 has shuttered most events, resorts, and turned daily routine upside down. Sending hope to all from the Wildwood team. Stay safe. Hunker in.